by Olga Godim
Part 1 and part 2|
appear in this issue.
“Your aura was purple in the tavern, do you know?” Mark chuckled unexpectedly.
Kiryll stole a glance at him and a grin stretched his own mouth wide. “Do they have a carousel at the fair?” he asked, pushing aside his unfortunate fumbling with magic. For the moment. He would think it through later.
“Yes,” Mark said. “You’ll love it.”
Kiryll enjoyed the gilded carousel, the performers’ tricks, the gaudy booths, and the shopping. He had never had anything bought for him before. They almost left the fair a few candlemarks later, when Kiryll’s eyes alighted on a baker’s stall. The blackberry tarts, his favorite, looked delicious, and his mouth watered.
Ashamed to ask Mark for anything else, he fantasized silently, imagining a juicy tart in his good, un-bandaged hand. They had already passed the stall, when he glanced at his wet fingers in puzzlement. Squashed in his fist, a tart dripped its black juice to the ground. Paling, Kiryll stopped cold. Mark followed his agonized gaze to the unfortunate tart. The baker hadn’t noticed his missing pastry yet.
“I didn’t mean to,” Kiryll whispered. The nasty hammers in his head started their painful drumming again and the beat spread rapidly to his entire body. “I just thought about a damn tart. I didn’t want to steal it.” The timbre of his voice rose to a screech. The gray despair that bloomed in his soul the night of Azza’s death lifted its ugly head again. His blighted magic deprived him of fantasy, turning a simple wish into a robbery. What was he to do?
“I know,” Mark soothed. “It’s no big deal. I’ll pay for the tart.”
“I don’t want your accursed tart! I don’t want your accursed magic! It’s only good for killing and stealing. I want to go home and be normal!” Shouting obscenities, Kiryll flung the smashed tart to the ground, and ignoring Mark’s calls, sprinted towards the closest fair exit. He needed to get away from tarts, people, and wishes.
His headlong rush had ended outside of town, in a little dale, where small local cows grazed indifferently and dragonflies flitted around on their iridescent wings. The cowherd drowsed in the shade of young aspens. Stopping behind a hazelnut thicket, Kiryll absently licked the sweet juice from his sticky palm. His head still ached dully. He couldn’t even allow himself to wish for anything. If his magic worked this way, he didn’t want it. He wished to get rid of the darned thing. There must be a way. The lady-magician Mark talked about should be able to remove it from his head.
Maybe he could do it himself, the unbidden thought sprang up. He wished for a tart and he got it. He wished to kill those beasts and he did. Maybe if he tried hard, he could get rid of magic. Kiryll closed his eyes and concentrated, feeling the vermilion mist swirling around him, ready for his wish. He pushed it away, far from him, to be rid of the nuisance, and heard, as if from a great distance, the frightened mooing of the cows and the terrified screams of the herder. Something had gone wrong again!
He had to stop, but the mist was strong and wouldn’t be dismissed. In a panic, Kiryll opened his eyes, remembering that it caused his imaginary whip to disappear, but it obviously wasn’t enough this time. The mist radiated from him in the angry, scarlet waves, bending the aspen saplings, lifting the poor cows into the air, and tumbling the man a couple yards from the ground.
His head aching abominably, Kiryll could only watch, as frantic thoughts stumbled over each other, muddling through the red rage of his magic. How could he stop it, if it spread like wild fire? Water? A blanket! People smother fire. In desperation, Kiryll imagined a huge tight blanket over the mist and pushed it to the ground, depriving it of whatever it fed upon.
To his relief, it worked. The mist died, leaving him panting and sobbing from the pain in his head. At least the cattle were back on the ground. The herder too, cursing loudly. Dazed, unable to stand any longer, Kiryll fell to his knees, hugging his head and sending a silent gratitude to the Gods that the herder didn’t notice him. The hammers inside his skull exploded in a feverish symphony. Much later, he staggered back to the inn.
Mark opened the door, his worried eyes gleaming like wet brown pebbles. “How are you, Kir? I thought I‘d let you sort yourself out. I can’t help anyway.” He spread his arms helplessly.
“I almost killed someone again, Mark.” Kiryll sank to his cot and wrapped himself in a blanket, considering the worn wooden floor beneath his feet. A long time ago, it was painted brown. “I want magic gone from my head. I’d rather drudge all my life for old Pock than kill and steal with this crazy thing. Can that lady teacher of yours do that?”
“Probably.” Mark sat down beside him. “But I think she won’t. Not before you learn to control your gift. You can always refrain from using it afterwards.”
“It’s not a gift. It’s a curse. I want to be normal.”
“You’ll never be normal, Kiryll. Not with your power. But believe me you can do lots of good the way you are.”
“Tell it to the herder whose cows flew from my magic.”
“I bet, they didn’t fly too far.” Mark snorted.
Kiryll had to admit that from a distance it did sound funny. He grinned too. “No.”
“I see you learned to shield yourself.” Mark studied him, his head to one side, eyes narrowed.
“I don’t know. I kind of smothered it, like fire with a blanket.” Did he do something right for a change?
“I hope your blanket will hold till we get to the school. Lady Eriale will put a tightest shield on you: you won’t be able to blow dust away, much less cows.”
“Good,” Kiryll muttered.
After dinner, Mark decided to go out again. He had to buy gifts for the kids in the magic school. “There is a toymaker’s shop down the street. Want to come with me?”
“Sure.” He had never been to a toy shop. Besides, he wanted to wear his new finery.
In the shop, painted dolls and stuffed animals didn’t attract his attention, but a display of wooden soldiers, each as tall as his palm, caught his fascinated gaze. Three different armies were engaged in combat on a wide table. The guards armed with swords wore dark-blue armor and rode black horses. The little yellow warriors rode strange humpy beasts and sported miniature bows. The horde of savages brandished short spears and war hammers. Wondering if real people far away actually wore such bizarre costumes, Kiryll touched one of the figurines, and then lifted his eyes to the shelf above the table. There, beside a toy wooden magician in a blue robe, various ships demonstrated their multicolored sails.
“Can they really float?” He hoped they could. He wanted to sail away on one of them.
“Definitely.” The owner, a slight, balding man, nodded with a knowing smile.
As an experiment, Kiryll wished for the smallest ship on the shelf, sailing into a fairy tale under its scarlet sails. He felt his red magic stir beneath the blanket and tightened his grip on it. Nothing happened -- the ship stayed safely on its supporting legs. Kiryll had relaxed.
Mark had already selected his gifts and was reaching for his purse, when a piercing scream shook the shop, and its creator charged through the back door.
“You sold her!” A red-haired girl of about five hurled herself at the shop-owner, hitting him in the stomach, the only place she could reach. “You promised, and you sold my Leonora to that nasty girl from the castle. I hate you! I hate her! I hate everyone.” Sobbing, she plopped down, her dainty slippers beating staccato on the wooden planks of the floor. A small mongrel dog of indeterminate coloration licked his mistress a few times and started barking.
Flushing, the owner glanced at his visitors. “I’m sorry. She’s been like that since my wife died. Almost six months. I’ve bought a Chalanian porcelain doll to calm her down, spent a fortune on it too. She had probably misplaced it again. Now she blames me. She blames me for everything.” He sighed and switched his attention back to his daughter.
“Magna, sweetling, I didn’t sell your Leonora, I swear.”
“Then where is she?” the girl cried, huge tears streaming down her smudged cheeks.
“Can I find the doll, Mark?” Kiryll whispered, his heart flapping. If his magic was good for anything, he’d better find that doll. “You said I could find things and pull them from afar. Tell me how.”
“Master, what does that doll look like? My ... apprentice might be able to locate it.”
The father glanced at them apprehensively. “You’re magicians?” He sounded more fearful than hopeful, and Kiryll could very well understand why.
“You can?” Magna, who seemed oblivious to everything else, abruptly jumped to her feet. Still sniffing and wiping tears with her fists, she fired off the description. “She is the most beautiful doll in a blue gown. There is a lacy flounce at the hem and embroidered daisies here and here. And frills at the cuffs and around her décolletage. And silver beads across the bodice. And a silk sash with a silver buckle.”
Her little finger pointed the positioning of all the gorgeous details on her own simple moss-green dress, but not knowing most of the words, Kiryll was lost half-way through. Helplessly, he looked at the adults for an explanation.
The father picked up another doll. “This size, and all blue lace, she’s right.”
“Visualize the dress,” Mark murmured in his ear. “Try sweeping around the shop first and then widen your search in a circle. I don’t think there is so much blue lace around.”
The father nodded. “Wait.” With his daughter hovering anxiously behind his elbow, he rummaged in one of the drawers until finally he had produced a sample of a strange white fabric.
It had more holes than thread, like Kiryll’s old shirt, only this thing was beautiful. Kiryll took the silky, weightless snippet and tried to imagine a dress made of its blue variation, but his fantasy buckled, producing lacy, shining sails instead. Such ship wouldn’t sail, fool, he told himself sternly. A doll in a dress -- that was his goal! When he could almost see it, he closed his eyes and lifted the blanket inside his head, letting the red mist out. Happy to be free, the mist swirled around him, sparkling more pink than red and throwing the thin tendrils around. They groped and searched until one of them finally found the blue lacy dress, connecting him to the doll by a pink, shimmering ribbon. Not sure whether he could pull the doll to himself without ripping the lace apart, Kiryll opened his eyes and pointed.
“It’s somewhere behind that wall.” All four of them hurried out of the shop, Kiryll in the lead. The cloudy pink ribbon fluttered and spun in front of him like a miniature, horizontal whirlwind, tugging at its master. It led Kiryll through the back door, into the garden, out the gates, and to a clump of nettles in the alley hugging a neighboring fence.
“Here.” Kiryll said.
Magna hopped excitedly. “Get it, magician!”
Kiryll stuck his hand into the thick nettles, searching blindly until his fingers caught a solid limb of the doll.
“The dog must’ve dragged it there,” the father muttered.
The dress was torn, and the beads gone, and one blue slipper missing, but Magna didn’t notice. “Leonora!” she screamed, hugging the doll. After reassuring herself that her lost treasure still had its arms and legs intact, she turned to Kiryll. “Thank you, good magician.” She curtsied solemnly, and then stood on tiptoe to kiss him on the cheek. All formalities performed, she glided away, cooing to her doll.
Smiling Kiryll blew at his stung hand. The shining pink ribbons still fluttered about him without direction. Collecting the ends, he tucked them safely back beneath the blanket. Magic was useful for something after all. He might keep it.
Copyright © 2007 by Olga Godim